History of Germany - H. E. Marshall
Leopold was succeeded by his son Francis II, and almost at once he was plunged into war, for the French, angry at the interference of other nations with their affairs, declared war with Austria. But the King of Austria was also Emperor of Germany, so Prussia and the other states soon joined with their Emperor against France.
The allies believed that France would be easily crushed. "Gentlemen," said the Duke of Brunswick to his officers, "do not take much baggage, this is a mere military picnic." "Do not buy too many horses," said another, "the whole affair will be over soon."
And indeed at first the war went well with the allies. Town after town fell into their hands, and they marched into France. Then the Duke of Brunswick issued his famous manifesto. In this manifesto he ordered the people of France to return to their obedience to their King, to lay down their arms, and set him free. If they refused he threatened to march on Paris and raze it to the ground.
This manifesto, instead of frightening the French, roused them to wrath. Ragged, hungry, half-trained as they were, they flocked to the army, eager to sweep the foe from their country.
Then fortune changed. At Valmy, after a slight resistance, the Duke of Brunswick, in spite of all his proud words, fell back before the ragged army of the Revolution, and once more recrossed the Rhine into his own country.
Two months later the Austrian army was also defeated at Jemappes in Belgium. Belgium was at this time called the Austrian Netherlands. But since the days of Joseph II they had been in revolt against Austrian rule, and had declared themselves free. Now for a time Belgium was annexed to France.
But although the French had won victories over both Prussians and Austrians, the war still continued.
Battles were fought and towns were taken and retaken. Now one side winning, now the other.
Meanwhile Frederick William once more turned his attention to Poland. It seemed as if the Poles, following the example of France, would rise and cast off the yoke of Russia. This made the Czarina very angry, and she and Frederick William joined in crushing the Poles. Then followed the Second Partition of Poland, both Russia and Prussia taking large provinces for themselves.
Poland was now but a third of the size it had been, and on all sides surrounded by greedy neighbours. And now the Poles made a last stand for liberty. They found a leader in the great General and patriot Kosciuszko. To his banner they flocked in hundreds, armed with sticks and scythes, or any sort of weapon they could lay hands on. For it was the peasants and the country folk who flocked to Kosciuszko, the nobles for the most part standing coldly aloof.
But great general though he was, he could do little, for there were two large armies against him. At the great battle of Maciejowice, October 10, 1794, his army was defeated, and he himself sorely wounded was carried prisoner to Russia.
The struggle was over. Once more Poland was divided, Russia, Prussia, and Austria each having a share of the spoils, and Poland as a separate kingdom was no more.
Already before this last Partition of Poland, the King of Prussia had withdrawn from the war with France and made peace. Austria, however, continued the war, and now it was carried on most fiercely in the north of Italy, which was at that time under Austrian rule. For there the French army was led by the young Corsican soldier Napoleon Bonaparte.
Victory after victory did this brilliant young leader win. At length the Emperor, humbled and beaten, fearing for the safety of his very capital, was fain to make peace, and so in 1797 the Treaty of Campo Formio was signed. In this peace the Emperor made the best bargain he could for himself and his own kingdom, and in order to do this, he gave up to France other parts of the Empire.
But of course the Emperor had, in reality, no power to give up any part of the Empire without the consent of the Electors. So, by an article in the treaty, a congress was called at Rastadt to settle these matters. Here the princes of the Empire gathered, very angry indeed that the Emperor had cared so little for their interests. But there was no unity among them, every petty prince wanting to get the best for himself, and stooping even to bribe the French in order to get it.
But if the Germans were angry, the French on their side were insolent. There seemed no limit to their demands. Soon war burst forth once more. This time Austria, Russia, and Britain joined together against France. Prussia took no part in it, but Prussia had by this time fallen so low in the opinion of all Europe that it did not seem to matter. At first, things went well for the allies, the Russians especially gaining great victories over the French, but ere long, fortune again changed.
While this new war was beginning, Bonaparte been away in Egypt carrying on his mad expedition against Britain there. That expedition, as you will read in French history, was an utter failure. And now hearing of the defeats which the French army was suffering at home, Bonaparte hastened back to France.
He succeeded in having himself chosen first Consul, then as absolute ruler of France he marched over the Alps, and swooped down upon the Austrian army in Italy.
With the battle of Marengo he won back with one blow all that France had lost in Italy. A few months later, the French General Moreau again beat the Austrians in the battle of Hohenlinden. The road to Vienna lay open. Austria, crushed once more and humbled, yielded to the insolent young conqueror Bonaparte.
The new peace which Austria now signed was called the Peace of LunÚville. It was very much the same as the Treaty of Campo Formio. But this time Bonaparte would have no delay. The princes of the Empire were not consulted, and Francis was obliged to sign, not only in the name of Austria, but in the name of the whole Empire.
By this Treaty, all the German lands west of the Rhine were lost to the Empire, and for a time the Rhine became the boundary of France. Other parts of Germany were divided, taken from one ruler and given to another, all at the imperious bidding of a stranger and an upstart. Never before had the Empire been brought so low. Indeed, the Empire was little more than a name. It was divided into more than three hundred petty kingships and princedoms, each ruler struggling for his own selfish ends, while Austria and Prussia, the two great powers of the Empire, were rivals and, indeed, enemies, and instead of striving for the good of the Empire they were taken up with their private quarrels.
Throughout the whole Empire there was no such thing as unity, no love of country, no patriotism. There was nothing but pride and oppression on the one hand, weakness and slavery on the other. In all the Empire there was no man great enough to rouse it to strength and union. Frederick William II, Prussia's bad and foolish King, was now indeed dead, and his son Frederick William III had succeeded him. But although the new King was a good man, he was weak and timid, and he did not know in the least how to stand against a conqueror like Napoleon. His great desire was to keep out of war with him, and in order to do this, he had to stoop to much meanness, to submit to many insults.
Meanwhile Napoleon had been climbing higher and higher, and the higher he rose the greater his ambition became. At length, in 1804, he caused himself to be crowned Emperor of the French. Then indeed the Emperor Francis II felt that his title was an empty farce. Napoleon had more than usurped his power. It was the Emperor of the French, not the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire who was the great power in Europe.
The Emperor writhed under this insult. All Austria too was still smarting under the memory of past defeats, and it was not long before war was once more declared, Austria joining with Russia against France. But the preparations of the two Emperors were slow and uncertain, Napoleon's swift and sure. He marched into Austria, and before the Russian and Austrian armies could join, he had shut up the Austrians in the town of Ulm.
The Austrian army was led by Mack, an old soldier, full of plans and vague dreams, and little fitted to struggle against a genius like Napoleon. He now utterly lost heart, and almost without a struggle surrendered with all his army. Upon an autumn morning 25,000 men marched out of Ulm, and in gloomy silence laid down their arms before the conqueror.
A few months later Napoleon again defeated the Austrians and the Russians in the great battle of Austerlitz. This battle was called the Battle of the Three Emperors, for the Emperor of Germany, the Emperor of Russia, and the Emperor of the French were all present.
It was a terrible defeat, yet neither Austria nor Russia were utterly crushed. Francis II, however, had no heart to fight longer, and he made peace with Napoleon. This peace was more humiliating still than any he had yet signed. Napoleon robbed him of much of his land, and also made many changes in other states of the Empire. He made the rulers of Bavaria and Wurtemburg into Kings, and forced the Emperor to acknowledge them as independent of the Empire. He formed other states into what was called the Confederation of the Rhine, this Confederation being under the protection of the Emperor of the French, not under that of the German Emperor.
Now more than ever did the Emperor feel that his title was but an empty one, so he gave it up so far as Germany was concerned, and henceforth called himself Emperor of Austria only, taking the title of Francis I of Austria. Thus at last the great Empire founded by Charlemagne a thousand years before came to an end.